Observation without criticism is one way to describe Mindfulness. Denison President Adam Weinberg shares his view.
“Mindfulness” is a term used a lot right now. What is mindfulness to you?
I tend to like the way people like Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh talk about mindfulness. For me, it is about paying attention and being purposeful and present in the moment in ways that are nonjudgmental.
How did you discover mindfulness as a practice?
In my early 40s, I had a health scare. I learned that I needed to develop better, stronger and more sustainable habits of wellness and health. I am an academic at heart so I started to do a lot of research and was surprised at how much research existed that documented the health and wellness impacts of mindfulness. Once I started my practice, I was stunned at the wide range of positive impacts it had on almost every aspect of my life.
Different people gravitate toward different mindfulness practices. What are some practices most meaningful to you?
I have tried to keep my practice simple so that I can sustain it. I have a meditation practice that is core to who I am as a person and how I live my everyday life. My meditation practice is simply focused on following my breath as a way to be present, purposeful and nonjudgmental. I start and end every day by sitting for a few minutes, and I try and take multiple moments during the day to stop, pay attention and be present in just that moment. Walking has become an important part of my practice.
“I believe mindfulness is a powerful set of tools that we can give students to learn to manage the stress, uncertainty, and pace of modern life.”
How does mindfulness positively impact your life? What benefits have you observed?
It has positively impacted every aspect of my life. I am healthier, happier and more present in what I am doing. My practice has made me a better person, parent, partner, and president. It has made me so much more conscious of the choices that I have. Mindfulness does not change what happens to us, but it does change how we interpret and deal with the things that happen to us. For me, mindfulness has helped me deal with some health issues, but more importantly, it has helped me increase the agency that I have in everyday life.
What excites you about Mindful Denison?
Modern life is stressful. And a liberal arts education should be focused on developing the whole person. As such, I want us to do more to help students develop the skills, values, and habits of health and wellness that will be important to both personal and professional success. I believe mindfulness is a powerful set of tools that we can give students to learn to manage the stress, uncertainty, and pace of modern life.
What are some books or articles or other tools you’d recommend for getting started or learning more?
There are lots of great books. I like the following: Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn; The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle; and The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh. I also think What Now? Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond by Yael Shy is a great book for college students.